Jaime Ridge, Sonny Bill and Whitney Houston feature in Google's trending lists.

The Olympics, Kony, Marmite, Whitney Houston and images of Jaime Ridge - New Zealanders' internet searches have revealed the motley cast of people and events that have shaped the online year.

Google yesterday released its annual Zeitgeist (German for "spirit of the times") report, which it calls "a barometer for what captivated Kiwis during 2012".

The top trending search for the year was Olympics, perhaps not surprising given the New Zealand team's record medal haul.

Volvo Ocean Race - hosted in Auckland in March - was second, followed by boy band One Direction and online gaming site kizi.


In fifth was Whitney Houston, who died in February, followed by Gangnam Style, the smash hit by musician Psy, and content sharing service Pinterest.

The eagerly awaited computer game Diablo 3 took eighth place, with Hurricane Sandy and social media website 9gag.

Top trending lists are the search terms that have seen the largest increase in search volume over the year.

This year Google did not release a top 10 most searched list, which last year was made up of searches including "nz", "auckland" and "weather".

"Top searches don't tend to change much year on year," Google spokeswoman Annie Baxter said.

"What we think is much more interesting is looking at the terms that have captivated people at different times."

Kim Dotcom was the top trending news event, followed by Tongariro, the transit of Venus, Belarus (home of the disgraced Nadzeya Ostapchuk) and Marmite.

Olympic champion Valerie Adams topped the trending New Zealanders list, with Kimbra in second place, followed by Sarah Walker, Margaret Mahy and Mahe Drysdale.


The most searched for images of New Zealanders was taken by Jaime Ridge, with her ex-boyfriend Sonny Bill Williams in third spot.

Photogenic faces also dominated the list of most searched images, which included One Direction, Justin Bieber and Katniss Everdeen.

The only non-person on the list was the "olympic rings", in seventh spot. "I imagine a lot of kids doing school projects," Ms Baxter said.

The "what is" trending list revealed New Zealanders were most confused about sopa (Stop Online Piracy Act), kony (Ugandan guerrilla leader Joseph Kony), yolo (You Only Live Once), scientology and fracking.

Google has also released the worldwide top 10 trending searches.

Whitney Houston was in top spot, followed by Gangnam Style, Hurricane Sandy, the iPad 3 and Diablo 3.

Kate Middleton was in sixth place, edging out the Olympics 2012 in seventh.